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The life of a commuter is more difficult than you would imagine. Yes, I get to live in my own bed, in my own room, with my own bathroom. I have a refrigerator that’s fully stocked and a car to take me where I need to go. But living off campus is harder than you would imagine.

Why did I decide to commute?

When choosing a college, one of my main deciding factors was location. I wanted to be close to home. With the plan of eventually attending medical school, saving money is important. I ended up choosing Carthage, which is a simple 20-minute drive from my house. I’ve taken the route so many times that I tell you how long each stoplight takes and where the cop cars like to hang out. Even though the drive is easy, there are other aspects of being a commuter that can be a challenge. 

Campus Involvement

Photo courtesy of Meredyth Wenta

Freshmen year, the main thing that everyone talks about “involvement.” Freshmen are always encouraged to join clubs and attend events. However, commuting makes getting involved in campus life extremely difficult. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve missed so many club meetings because they were at inconvenient times. I was inducted into an honors society that met at 9:15 on Wednesday nights. It just wasn’t feasible for me to drive 40 minutes, there and back, to attend a 15-minute meeting when I had class the next morning at 8 a.m. With that in mind, it takes more effort to stay involved on campus.

Morgan Popek, a junior commuter, is active in campus life by “staying on campus a lot, going to a lot of events and being involved in a lot of things.” If you would like to be on an executive board or an active member in clubs, reach out to the current e-board members and let them know you’re a commuter. I’ve learned that by talking to the group leaders, you can have some influence on meeting times and they will be more understanding if you can’t attend a meeting.

Parking

I’m sure every campus has their struggles with parking, but commuters are on the front lines. Personally, I have to arrive to campus at least 20 minutes before my class to ensure that there’s a space. With the recent influx of commuters at Carthage, I planned so that my schedule will always have 8 a.m. classes so I would be guaranteed parking. For those with later classes, spots aren’t always guaranteed. And although arriving early is good for parking, but increases the length of my day. For this reason, I often have to overpack and bring everything I could need. Junior commuter Megan Mauer said it best: “Being a commuter has its benefits, but I definitely have to still lug around my stuff for the day to avoid losing my parking spot and driving back and forth to campus.”  

In the end, it all works out…

With everything in life, there are pros and cons, and being a commuter isn’t an exception. There may be late nights and a heavy backpack, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting the most out of your college experience. Staying home may be a financial, personal or logistical decision. Whatever the reason, make the most out of your college experience; talk a walk through campus, meet new friends and join a club. Commuter or resident, college should be one of the best times of your life.

Rep image courtesy of Pexels

Meredyth is a senior at Carthage College majoring in Biology. She is from Pleasant Prairie, Wiscosin, which makes her morning commute a short 15 minutes. When she's not working in the lab on zebrafish and bacteria, Meredyth can be found spending time with her friends, reading mystery novels, or taking pictures for her Instagram.
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